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Imagine that: Happy ending to a 'parent trigger' petition

April 11, 2013|By Karin Klein
  • Parents whose children attend 24th Street Elementary School deliver their petitions for change to the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Parents whose children attend 24th Street Elementary School deliver their… (Los Angeles Times )

The "parent trigger" movement underwent a maturation process in its latest campaign, a petition to restructure 24th Street Elementary in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Unlike in previous campaigns, there were no lawsuits against the district, no claims by parents that they had been duped into signing the petition. (Under the law, if half or more of the parents sign, they can force either a restructuring of the school or a switch to charter.) The process was deliberative, with the parents taking applications to run their school and voting on which ones to accept. In the end, they went with a hybrid: part reconstituted district school, part charter.

No doubt about it, 24th Street Elementary was ripe for parent trigger. Its test scores were dismal and not really improving. Teachers were frustrated by the school’s poor management.

Of course, it helped immeasurably that L.A. Unified’s leaders didn’t fight the petition; they welcomed it. It’s a new role, in a way, for the parent-trigger movement. The original idea behind the legislation was that parents could force hostile and uncaring districts to pay attention to them, that they could force change where school boards and superintendents didn’t want to bother. Under the L.A. Unified scenario, the petition was helping a reform-oriented district do what it probably wanted to do in the first place but would have found difficult to carry off with union opposition.

Either way, if the trigger improves desperately underperforming schools, and if students leave elementary school with the skills and enthusiasm to tackle more challenging academic work -- the kind that will lead them to college -- does it matter which form of institutional sluggishness it overcomes?

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